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Why Luxury Brand Donatello Is Making Shoes in Italy the Old-Fashioned Way

Over the course of their 30-plus years in the footwear industry, Scott Prentice and Joseph Molinaro have helped to shape some of the biggest brands in the men’s business — from Bally and Bruno Magli to Calvin Klein and Salvatore Ferragamo. Now, they are using their extensive expertise to introduce a new label based on some of the oldest footwear techniques.

The Donatello collection, which launched in late 2019, consists of men’s and women’s dress looks starting at $375 retail. It is named for the famed Renaissance painter and takes inspiration from his ingenuity. “It’s that philosophy of doing things that are more innovative, using technology of the past and the future and creating new things,” said Prentice.

When developing their brand, Prentice and Molinaro, whose paths first crossed at Bruno Magli in the mid-1990s, sought to revive classic shoemaking methods, such as the reverse-Goodyear, California and Sachetto constructions. Their purpose was twofold: to make ultra-comfortable dress shoes, and to help preserve these skills among Italy’s artisans.

Molinaro explained that even before COVID-19, the country’s shoemaking industry was changing. “A lot of the factories were being absorbed by the big brands, and they tend to homogenize the original, innovative and creative mentality that’s been going on in Italy for centuries,” he said.

Donatello Italy Factory
Donatello is producing its shoes in Italy’s Le Marche region.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Donatello
Donatello Italy Factory
The factory making Donatello’s men’s line previously produced shoes for Bruno Magli.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Donatello

Donatello, which is primarily targeted to better retailers, strives to offer something different. And the brand’s retail partners say customers are responding well to the line. Victor Scognamiglio, owner of Victor Talbots, an upscale menswear store in Greenvale, N.Y., told FN, “Even a gentleman who has a high instep or a wide width is feeling complete comfort with the shoes. They also love the styling.”

Scognamiglio also lauded Donatello’s distribution setup, which ships out of Brewster, N.Y. “They brought in inventory, where you can easily stick your foot in the market,” he said. “Then, as things start moving, you just pick up the phone and you’re back in business within a matter of days. That at-once service for retailers is so important these days.”

Donatello Bel 12 Laceup
Donatello’s Bel 12 pebble-grain leather laceup.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Donatello

Donatello does have an e-commerce site; however, Prentice said wholesale is its main priority right now. “The smaller stores understand what this product is all about, and we’re happy with that,” he explained. “We just want to have a faithful customer. And I think they’ll follow us because these constructions are fantastic.”

Recognizing that style expectations have shifted recently, though, Prentice and Molinaro are incorporating more sustainable materials into the line for the coming seasons, and will debut their first sneakers this month, priced at $350.

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